The Interview is the Tip of the Spear

  • March 30, 2011
  • Scott

Elliot Loh’s recent post “Management Begins at the Interview” (that link isn’t working, but this link takes you to the right page of his blog, it is the second post ) proposes that a co-founder be in every candidate’s interview process – to drive absorption of culture, mission, and philosophy of approach.  By doing this in the interview process, you achieve a few things:

  1. You get their undivided attention
  2. If they reject your thesis – your corporate culture and approach – they have enough information to get out before they get hired.  Help them self-select.
  3. Equally, in a small company it is good for new hires to know the founder(s) are signing off on their hire.
  4. Finally, it is important to have at least one consistent interview across as many candidates as possible.  It makes it easier to benchmark and pattern match good hires versus red or yellow flags that need to be explored.

Essentially, the interview is the tip of the spear for creating the kind of company you want to be a part of.  In a previous life, Elliot and I worked for a company that was maniacal about recruiting and recruiting process (and resulted in the start-up, CollegeHire, in which Elliot was a key influencer).  Where else could you do a couple hundred college graduate interviews every year, and still make time for the day job?

It was interesting to read his post and see some of the same takeaways that I have from that early experience.  At Tribe, Geni, and Yammer, it sounds like Elliot had ample opportunity to apply that philosophy.  Similarly, I had good opportunity to shape recruiting practices at Lombardi while I was there, building the technical services team from the ground up.

And now that I’m at bp3, we may not be hiring as aggressively as a venture-funded outfit would, but that just means we have all the more pressure to get it right when we make a hire.  And one thing I’ve learned: culture matters more than ability in the long run.  Some would argue the opposite.  But I can tell you – I can always find another person with the right abilities (or capabilities).  So I’ll take the one I can find that also has the right culture fit.  We tend to hire more experienced industry veterans at bp3, and so we don’t kid ourselves that we are going to remake an veteran’s work-life philosophy overnight.  We need to find people who are already in rough alignment.

One thing is for sure:  hiring great people is one of the most gratifying things you can do as a business owner.  Seeing them happy years into the job, that’s even more gratifying.

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